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NASA partners with Freelancer to crowdsource designs for its space robot’s tools

Just a month after teaming up with drone startup Flirtey, NASA has partnered with yet another Australian startup: the space agency will be using Freelancer to design a number of models of tools that will be used by a humanoid robot on the International Space Station.

The partnership with ​the NASA Tournament Lab, held through its Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), will see the agency hold a series of challenges on Freelancer.com. Users will be asked to produce computer-aided design (CAD) models of tools for the R2 robot.

The R2 team will then be able to bring the robot data and model together with the resulting designs to help with their planning.

Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer, said the startup is honoured to welcome NASA to the Freelancer.com community.

“NASA Tournament Lab working with Freelancer.com clearly shows that crowdsourcing solutions has become an essential part of creativity and innovation and that there is a strong demand to develop ingenious and world ­leading solutions online. We look forward to collaborating with NASA on the cutting edge of space exploration, and seeing the CAD designs our freelancers produce for Robonaut 2,” he said.

The first two of fourteen challenges have been posted, with the first a 3D model of a handrail to be used during Extra-Vehicular Activity – a spacewalk – and the second a manila envelope, to help improve R2’s grasping ability. A number of new challenges will be revealed each week.

The NTL will also soon be posting a challenge for Freelancer’s community – which now boasts 16 million registered users – to develop smartwatch concepts and an app for astronauts to use on the International Space Station.

CoECI was established in 2011 after NASA held a pilot program to see whether crowdsourcing solutions had the potential to assist the agency in its research and development.

The Center now works with innovators around the world to generate ideas and solve problems through the NTL, with NASA stating that the challenge-based approach has increased the agency’s creative capacity and has become an effective method to find innovative solutions.

Find out more about the NTL’s R2 challenges here.